LISBON: Rafael Nadal is hoping that playing in the United Cup will give him the confidence boost he needs as he looks to defend his Australian Open title next month after being plagued by injuries in 2022. The 36-year-old won the Australian and French Open trophies this year to increase his Grand Slam haul to a men’s record 22 but he required pain-numbing injections on his foot during his run to the Roland Garros title and then had to withdraw from his Wimbledon semi-final with an abdominal injury. After winning four titles in the first six months of 2022, it was a case of more pain than gain for Nadal since he hoisted the Musketeers’ Cup for a record 14th time in June. “My main goal now is to regain positive feelings on the court and to be competitive, and I hope to do that. I’m ready to do it, but we’ll see,” Nadal told a news conference on Wednesday. “Right now I’m just focused on having a competitive level.. on playing at the highest level possible and being competitive and fighting for everything.” The Spaniard also said he was glad that his main rival, 21-time major winner Novak Djokovic, has been allowed to return to Australia. Djokovic, a nine-time champion at Melbourne Park, missed the season’s opening slam this year after being deported in January for failing to meet the country’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements for visitors. “Djokovic being here is good for tennis and for the fans. It’s always a victory to see the best on court,” added Nadal.